The election deciding the next public officeholders for Long Beach, Calif., have indicated a significant challenge to the status quo of longtime local politics. In the hotly contested race for city mayor, polls showed leading support for Robert Garcia, the current vice mayor and owner of local media site and newspaper the Long Beach Post. In a runoff election on June 3, Long Beach voters will have the opportunity to shatter new records and prove that the city is ready for representation that reflects its dynamic and diverse community. If elected, Garcia would be the first openly LGBT as well as first Latino mayor of Long Beach, a city that with nearly half a million people is the seventh-largest in California.
Garcia’s victory in a race packed tightly with other Democrats is further evidence that the political tides are turning towards a younger and more engaged generation of leaders. Garcia’s campaign impressed many when he surged ahead of powerful and deeply connected favorites in the California political machine, such as Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal – who received the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown – and Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto. While Garcia’s sexual orientation did not really pose an issue in a city with a prominent LGBT community, the seasoned and well-funded heavyweights the 36-year old campaigned against is a testament to his forward-thinking agenda and strong record helping to improve the port city as vice mayor.
Heading into June, Garcia will now face off against Damon Dunn, a real estate investor and former NFL player who is a relative newcomer to Long Beach. The next mayor’s leadership chops will be put to the ultimate test, as they take the reins of a city that is still recovering from a tepid economy and rough-edged reputation. Garcia’s success would signal that a leader’s effective community stewardship and commitment to core values are taking far greater priority with voters over who they happen to love.